A FORMER Catholic school pupil who accused a priest of “horrific” sexual abuse made up the claims to get compensation, a court has heard.

Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, is accused of subjecting a teenage boy to repeated sexual abuse when he worked as a teacher at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, Lancashire, in the late 1970s.

Fr Higginbottom was suspended from his post at St Augustine’s Church - a place of worship since 1827 in Coniscliffe Road, Darlington - in December 2004.

Liverpool Crown Court heard previous allegations had been made against Higginbottom by another pupil in 2007 and the Catholic Church had settled the claim out of court for £35,000.

But Adam Birkby, defending, said the police had investigated the claims and, although Higginbottom had been charged, no evidence against him was offered in court and not guilty verdicts were entered.

In his closing speech, Mr Birkby said the complainant in the current case had read about the settlement and lied about the abuse.

He said: “I say that he has fabricated these allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Higginbottom with the clear aim of achieving thousands of pounds of compensation.”

The alleged victim, who said the abuse happened when he was aged 13 and 14, reported the allegations to police in 2014.

Mr Birkby said he had rung a firm of solicitors 11 days before going to the police and had been told to report the matter, as a conviction would help if he were to bring a claim.

Mr Birkby said documents from the firm proved that was a lie.

David Temkin, prosecuting, told the jury the complainant had said the case was not about compensation, but about justice.

In his evidence, Higginbottom told the court he had no memory of the alleged victim and did not sexually abuse him.

Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, denies four counts of indecent assault and four counts of serious sexual offences.